And as we emerge from Easter week…
Children’s Funeral Fund for England
On 31 March, the Prime Minister announced the establishment of a Funeral Fund for grieving parents who have lost their child. Under the scheme, parents will no longer have to meet the costs of burials or cremations; instead, fees will be waived by all local authorities and met by Government funding. The intervention brings England in line with Wales and follows a cross-party campaign by bereaved parents to remove fees for funerals of those under the age of 18. [See Comments, below].
Pilot minor repairs fund
Also on 31 March (did no-one in Whitehall realise it was Holy Saturday?), Heritage Minister Michael Ellis announced a pilot scheme for minor repairs to listed buildings of all faiths and denominations in Manchester and Suffolk “to increase community engagement and vital heritage management skills”. Eligible places of worship in the pilot areas will be able to access a £500,000 minor repairs fund.
Public benefit and religion in Victoria
The National Secular Society reports that “The Australian state of Victoria is considering ending the status of ‘advancement of religion’ as a charitable purpose and rescinding religious institutions’ automatic tax exemptions”. On a careful reading of the report, the actual situation is a little more complicated than the headling would suggest: the proposal is contained in a private Member’s bill rather than emanating from the State Government.
That said, however, the report quotes former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard as suggesting that removing tax concessions from Churches could push recalcitrant ones to take firmer action over child sexual abuse and, in the light of the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, that argument might have some traction.
And while we’re in Australia, a new book has been published in the ICLARS Series on Law and Religion. Religious Freedom and the Australian Constitution: Origins and Future, by Luke Beck of Monash University, looks at the origins of Australia’s constitutional religious freedom provision.
According to the publisher’s flyer, “It explores the political activities and motives of religious leaders seeking to give the Australian Constitution a religious character and the political activities and motives of a religious minority seeking to prevent it having a religious character. It also examines Section 116, dealing with separation of religion and government, and argues that until now scholars and courts have misunderstood it. The book shows how the origins of the provision lead to Section 116 being conceptualised as a safeguard against religious intolerance on the part of the Commonwealth.”
Routledge is currently offering a 20% discount on the cover price.
- Frank Cranmer, Ecclesiastical Law Society: Easter Newsletter: includes a long report by Russell Dewhurst on the Society’s recent Day Conference on education in ecclesiastical law.
- Clive D Field, British Religion in Numbers: Counting Religion in Britain, March 2018.
😊 Easily the best April Fool we saw on the Web:
We were outraged that fewer than 0.001% of eggs on sale this year had any mention of the disestablishment of the Church of England on their packaging. That's why we've launched the Separating Church and State Egg https://t.co/JUcYg5rHNC
— Secularism UK (@NatSecSoc) April 1, 2018
In drafting our responses to “Recent queries and comments“, it is not always easy to evince the information sought by the questioner, either through the cryptic nature of the search, the spelling of case names, or the subject matter. This week’s batch included the query “wood pips in jam”, which followers of Q1 (Season F, episode “Fakes and Frauds) might have thought referred to the 19th-century practice of creating fake (but cheap) raspberry jam by this method. However, following the misplaced worries regarding the re-use of jam jars, we posted Are wood-chips the new jam-jars? in which we suggested that the risks identified by HSE associated the storage of wood pellets was a real concern for churches and others switching to this fuel source.